What should a 22nd century teenage action hero look like?
Facial features and color will continue to blend as they have throughout human history. Caucasians will be a minority, mixed races the majority. This is expected to be a reality sixty years before Spartak is even born.
I wanted him to stand out. A white skinned blond would do that in 2115. That look might also match what I envisioned as the white minorities, not necessarily elites, who continue to hold onto disproportionate power because of rapacious gerrymandering of elected districts and a voter pool restricted by law to favor those in power. These voters would not have to be rich and successful, only malleable for the benefit of the elite. And Spartak, distrusting the elite and wanting to see democracy returned to America, might appeal to the very people who keep his class in near poverty.
I though about my own high school experience. Some guys were barely into puberty, others looked like college students. Spartak needed to be a high school sophomore who obviously had the physique, looks and talent that would make him a standout, admired, sought after, envied, maybe hated by his peers. He was a warrior as a street fighter but had to submit to bullying by some of the cruel elites to survive. He was proud but cautious, understanding the risks. What does he look like?
I thought you might enjoy seeing the process we went through to capture his image for the book cover.
The artist is Melanie Rose, a talented young illustrator from Toronto who worked with me through various versions that I will share here. I told her: 16 years old, long blond hair like a founding father, handsome, blue eyes, body of a world class gymnast, confident and tough but with vulnerability, an innocence perceptible behind his powerful exterior. He is also bisexual, whatever that means in terms of look. Easy assignment.
She collaborated with Sparkie Cathcart of Kiaro Creative Approaches Ltd. in Toronto who did the cover layout.
Here are four early facial sketches. I see them as four different young men. You may think I messed up in selections. All are terrific. Which are your favorites and why? Spartak the innocent. Sweet faced but not tough enough to survive and conquer.
Spartak the introspective. Perhaps a bit older than 16 and too serious.
Spartak the beautiful. But he has a beard line, something he desperately wanted but didn’t have in the novel. Maybe a bit too pampered looking given his life.
Spartak, almost there, but a bit old, more likely late teens or early twenties.
Spartak in three elegant Napoleonic jackets. A little older than 16 with a touch of Brad Pitt. The jackets are fantastic but not futuristic.
Spartak in the red jacket, standing in front of a dark and futuristic city. Wow. He is certainly powerful looking, a man who could grace a romance novel. And more like late twenties. But really good. Maybe a future Spartak?
Below are the four finalists in Round 2. Did I pick the right one?
Spartak in the black, almost metallic tank top under an amazing futuristic, Napoleonic jacket. It has a slightly ripped bodice look of a Danielle Steele novel. Behind is the tower of the Space Elevator, the background not yet defined. Great look for him but too militaristic.
Spartak in the grey tank top and jacket. A little super-heroish. But hot.
Spartak in the green tank top (Ogden Academy colors) and a blue coat. Very nice. I picked this one until I took it and the next one to a cocktail reception and asked for opinions. Male and female, straight and gay, all picked the next one.
Spartak, no jacket, just the tank top. Vulnerable, hard to tell whether he is one of the elites or not. Masculine, athletic, powerful, innocent and ready to face what is to come. And tight, unadorned black pants. This is it.
Below is a near final version of the cover art, front and back. Images are more refined. His hands are open and detailed. The colors have shifted to the blue tones. Spartak wears the Ogden Academy logo on his tank top You can see a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and an aircraft.
I include contact information for both Melanie and Sparkie, both very creative and helpful. Spartak is grateful to finally have a face and physique. He likes the look. Do you?
Kiaro Creative Approaches Ltd.